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Dry_vby
Skeptic Friend

Australia
249 Posts

Posted - 08/04/2005 :  19:04:11  Show Profile Send Dry_vby a Private Message
In an article posted by Dave W entitled "Fence sitting" he quoted Michael Shermer as saying "The battleground is for fence sitters....."

Now, as an avowed fence sitter I do not want to be placed between the hammer and the anvil by either side.

Maybe, coming from the merry old land of Oz I don't see the level of conflict that others from elsewhere might experience between the two forces in question, but I certainly don't want to be the prize in some competition to see who can get more people to agree with them.

If two opposing points of view wish to duke it out, then go for it hammer and tong by all means, but don't expect me to climb down and start swingin for either side.

Now, I understand that there are zealots on either side of the equation just dying to boost their ranks so as to somehow claim victory by sheer wieght of numbers, but surely this is a bloody minded attitude that can only lead to more conflict.

Isn't one of the things that skepticism has over fundamentalism the right for people to not have to make up their minds one way or the other?

Why must I choose.

Is this like Bush's " .....either.....or....." statement?

I like sitting on the fence.

It's comfy up here and I get a great view.


"I'll go along with the charade
Until I can think my way out.
I know it was all a big joke
Whatever it was about."

Bob Dylan

filthy
SFN Die Hard

USA
14408 Posts

Posted - 08/04/2005 :  19:20:42   [Permalink]  Show Profile Send filthy a Private Message
Indeed, but one must come down from the fence now and then to examine the arguments put forth and independantly research the claims. To do otherwise is rather like watching pro wrestling; it's a lot of fun, but because you don't have to think, it will teach you little.

As to weight of numbers, well, having lots of folks in agreement is nice, but if they are agreeing just because everyone else seems to, they are of small account. Only those willing to do their own thinking and not take just any claim as read without support are worth having in the discussion.

I too, like being a spectator but I don't limit myself to just that. Unless you bring along a cushion, that fence rail can get a tad uncomfortable...


"What luck for rulers that men do not think." -- Adolf Hitler (1889 - 1945)

"If only we could impeach on the basis of criminal stupidity, 90% of the Rethuglicans and half of the Democrats would be thrown out of office." ~~ P.Z. Myres


"The default position of human nature is to punch the other guy in the face and take his stuff." ~~ Dude

Brother Boot Knife of Warm Humanitarianism,

and Crypto-Communist!

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Dry_vby
Skeptic Friend

Australia
249 Posts

Posted - 08/04/2005 :  19:51:30   [Permalink]  Show Profile Send Dry_vby a Private Message
Ah, but this is my point.

I can see both sides of the argument from up here.

I'm not discussing the merits of either argument.

I just feel a tad uncomfortable that I am being fought over by these two sides.

It's as if one side yells at another and then looks to me to choose.

When the yelling starts, I stop listening, regardless of who's doin' the hollerin'.

It is that "Battleground......" thing that erks me.

edited to add this: Btw, just 'cause I'm on the fence don't mean I'm not thinkin'.

"I'll go along with the charade
Until I can think my way out.
I know it was all a big joke
Whatever it was about."

Bob Dylan
Edited by - Dry_vby on 08/04/2005 19:54:24
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H. Humbert
SFN Die Hard

USA
4574 Posts

Posted - 08/04/2005 :  20:27:50   [Permalink]  Show Profile Send H. Humbert a Private Message
Sometimes people don't have the luxury of idly watching the events of the world. There is a certain amount of social responsibility and accountability we all share. You must understand, people aren't necessarily fighting over you, they are fighting over issues that may potentially impact upon you and everyone else.

If you have no opinion on, say, whether or not aliens have visited the Earth, then it is probably of little account. However, it may matter if a politician in your district wishes to pass a bill that would allow teaching biblical Creationism to your children in public schools, or withdrawing public funding from AIDS research because he believes it isn't a disease but a plague sent by god, or that alternative and potentially dangerous medical treatments should be endorsed by government agencies.

Skeptics aren't trying to get you "on their side" on every single issue, they are trying to teach you how to rationally evaluate various claims. These skills may help you avoid becoming the victim of a swindle or falling victim to bogus medical treatments, for example. And promoting healthy skepticism is beneficial for all of us simply because society best functions when its members are able to recognize good arguments and ideas from bad arguments and nonsense.

If you don't want to ever come down from the fence, then no one can make you. However, neither do you then have the right to complain when the issues you decided to avoid directly impact your life.


"A man is his own easiest dupe, for what he wishes to be true he generally believes to be true." --Demosthenes

"The first principle is that you must not fool yourself - and you are the easiest person to fool." --Richard P. Feynman

"Face facts with dignity." --found inside a fortune cookie
Edited by - H. Humbert on 08/04/2005 20:42:32
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Dry_vby
Skeptic Friend

Australia
249 Posts

Posted - 08/04/2005 :  20:40:41   [Permalink]  Show Profile Send Dry_vby a Private Message
I fear I might not be making myself clear, but that's OK.

I listen to the "arguments" from all around and hope that I have the capacity to draw a rational conclusion.

It is when I am expected to show my colors or fly the flag that I draw the line.

I am not knocking critical thinking, or for that matter non-critical thinking, I am merely asserting my right to not be drawn onto a "battleground".

"I'll go along with the charade
Until I can think my way out.
I know it was all a big joke
Whatever it was about."

Bob Dylan
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H. Humbert
SFN Die Hard

USA
4574 Posts

Posted - 08/04/2005 :  20:52:34   [Permalink]  Show Profile Send H. Humbert a Private Message
quote:
Originally posted by Dry_vby
I am not knocking critical thinking, or for that matter non-critical thinking, I am merely asserting my right to not be drawn onto a "battleground".

Well, the "battleground" is merely a metaphor for life and the choices it presents. There are differently philosophies available that are offered as guides to help you make those choices. Sketicism is one of them. It isn't an "all or nothing" deal, nor is there a uniform you must don or a flag you must wave to be a skeptic. You may choose not to be a skeptic in all matters. However, the very fact that you wish to seek "rational conclusions" certainly suggests that skepticism would be the most useful to you. Non-critical thinking isn't going to get you there.

But it mostly seems you have trouble with the idea of labeling yourself one thing or another, perhaps finding the idea of that too constraining. Well, that's fine, too.


"A man is his own easiest dupe, for what he wishes to be true he generally believes to be true." --Demosthenes

"The first principle is that you must not fool yourself - and you are the easiest person to fool." --Richard P. Feynman

"Face facts with dignity." --found inside a fortune cookie
Edited by - H. Humbert on 08/04/2005 21:03:44
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Dry_vby
Skeptic Friend

Australia
249 Posts

Posted - 08/04/2005 :  21:04:13   [Permalink]  Show Profile Send Dry_vby a Private Message
It's not the forming opinions part, so much as the expectation that I must man the barricades.

I would imagine that most of the ludicrous remarks made by UFOlogists and their ilk can be seen for what they are without much critical thinking and anyone who is yet to make up their minds on such a matter merely doesn't give a flying fandango.

I would hazard a guess that just because people don't want to make a stand on moral issues does not mean that they agree with some outlandish proposition, but that they either don't want to get involved because the issue is to complex, or they are just plain lazy and selfish.

"I'll go along with the charade
Until I can think my way out.
I know it was all a big joke
Whatever it was about."

Bob Dylan
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filthy
SFN Die Hard

USA
14408 Posts

Posted - 08/05/2005 :  01:55:36   [Permalink]  Show Profile Send filthy a Private Message
quote:
In an article posted by Dave W entitled "Fence sitting" he quoted Michael Shermer as saying "The battleground is for fence sitters....."
I think that perhaps Shermer could have worded that a bit better, but the sentiment is accurate enough. The hardcore on either side of any question will never be convinced however tenious their position. It is those in the middle ground that decide a question, always.

Y'see, people, including fence-sitters, vote and it is critical to educational standards that they cast their ballots from an informed perspective. Otherwise, you end up with nonsense such as happened in Kansas a short while back. And hey, that idiotcy ain't over yet, not by a long chalk.

And why is it not over, you ask? Simple; not enough of the middle ground voted from an informed perspective at their last school board election. The bell will be rung for Round Two (or Three, or Five, or, hell, I don't know. I've lost track) this fall.

It is not a matter of you "duking it out" for one group or another. It is a matter of becoming well enough informed that you or anyone in the middle, can make critical decisions based upon accurate information.

So Dry_vby, I'll come out and ask: which would you prefer to teach science to your children; Richard Dawkins PhD, or Jonathan Sarfati PhD? It might one day come down to, if not that desision, then one very like it....


"What luck for rulers that men do not think." -- Adolf Hitler (1889 - 1945)

"If only we could impeach on the basis of criminal stupidity, 90% of the Rethuglicans and half of the Democrats would be thrown out of office." ~~ P.Z. Myres


"The default position of human nature is to punch the other guy in the face and take his stuff." ~~ Dude

Brother Boot Knife of Warm Humanitarianism,

and Crypto-Communist!

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GeeMack
SFN Regular

USA
1093 Posts

Posted - 08/05/2005 :  08:02:53   [Permalink]  Show Profile Send GeeMack a Private Message
quote:
Originally posted by Dry_vby...
I would hazard a guess that just because people don't want to make a stand on moral issues does not mean that they agree with some outlandish proposition, but that they either don't want to get involved because the issue is to complex, or they are just plain lazy and selfish.
Huge segments of entire nations favor stifling their children's educations. They want to teach them that supernatural creatures made all living things as we know them, more or less with a single stroke of magic... *poof*... life. They expect those children to discard the scientific process, abandon critical thinking, and reject applying rational thought to many issues. The "truth" of creationism vs. evolution notwithstanding, the moral issue, to most skeptics, is that lack of regard for teaching children to think clearly.
quote:
Originally posted by filthy...
So Dry_vby, I'll come out and ask: which would you prefer to teach science to your children; Richard Dawkins PhD, or Jonathan Sarfati PhD? It might one day come down to, if not that desision, then one very like it....
I'll go you one further, filthy. So Dry_vby, do you not consider the indoctrination of children into a belief in magic, at the expense of teaching them how to think, a moral issue? And if you do, do you avoid taking a stand on that issue because you consider it too complex, or because you are just plain lazy and selfish?
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Ricky
SFN Die Hard

USA
4907 Posts

Posted - 08/05/2005 :  15:05:22   [Permalink]  Show Profile  Send Ricky an AOL message Send Ricky a Private Message
quote:
It's not the forming opinions part, so much as the expectation that I must man the barricades.


I think the difference here (in this case) is between being a skeptic and being an evangelical skeptic. If you want to man the barricades, by all means, you are welcome to. But if you don't, that is just as fine. Either way, we want to reach out to those who don't understand critical thinking, whether they want to man the barricades or not.

As long as you are thinking and questioning, we (skeptics) win.

quote:
I would imagine that most of the ludicrous remarks made by UFOlogists and their ilk can be seen for what they are without much critical thinking and anyone who is yet to make up their minds on such a matter merely doesn't give a flying fandango.


Then you're in for a surprise...

I actually saw a show on the history channel last Sunday which gave credit to fiber optics, lasers, and computers to technology recovered from the Rosewell crash. Although to be fair, they used words such as "it has been suggested that..." and so on, but it was obvious which way the show was leaning.

Why continue? Because we must. Because we have the call. Because it is nobler to fight for rationality without winning than to give up in the face of continued defeats. Because whatever true progress humanity makes is through the rationality of the occasional individual and because any one individual we may win for the cause may do more for humanity than a hundred thousand who hug their superstitions to their breast.
- Isaac Asimov
Edited by - Ricky on 08/05/2005 15:09:04
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Dry_vby
Skeptic Friend

Australia
249 Posts

Posted - 08/05/2005 :  18:39:47   [Permalink]  Show Profile Send Dry_vby a Private Message
I'm goin to try to aproach this from a different angle, so I beg your indulgence whilst I take a slight divergence.

To extend the fence sitting metephor to breaking point, I see the situation from up here thusly.

There are people on one side of the fence who are fundamentalist Woo-woo's and there are those on the other side who are fundamentalist skeptics.

From where I sit, they are both just as scary.

Occassionally some one will make an attempt to cross the fence, wether by climbing over or storming through or simply opening the door and strollong over.

Whichever method says something about the person to start with, but regardless a person makes a foray into the opposing camp in an attempt to make a point.

This person is almost always initially indulged up to a point, and then if they presss the issue to far the dogs are loosed and it's evereyone for themselves.

As one side is willing to kill the soul to deny the body, the other is willing to kill to body to deny the soul.

Most people have their pet beleifs that keep them warm at night and the world of the rabid skeptic has nothing to offer in its place.

This is that fuzzy feeling that people fight to maintain.

Selfish, perhaps, but hey, aint that the fundemantal nature of evolution?

"I'll go along with the charade
Until I can think my way out.
I know it was all a big joke
Whatever it was about."

Bob Dylan
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Dave W.
Info Junkie

USA
25977 Posts

Posted - 08/05/2005 :  20:15:57   [Permalink]  Show Profile  Visit Dave W.'s Homepage Send Dave W. a Private Message
quote:
Originally posted by Dry_vby

I'm goin to try to aproach this from a different angle, so I beg your indulgence whilst I take a slight divergence.

To extend the fence sitting metephor to breaking point, I see the situation from up here thusly.

There are people on one side of the fence who are fundamentalist Woo-woo's and there are those on the other side who are fundamentalist skeptics.

From where I sit, they are both just as scary.

Occassionally some one will make an attempt to cross the fence, wether by climbing over or storming through or simply opening the door and strollong over.
Unfortunately, you're right: you broke the metaphor.

The metaphor is just about belief, and not about activism. More correctly, the metaphor is used by activists to describe the ideological continuum on one particular issue or another. You sit at some point on that continuum, whether you like it or not.

You appear to want to sit "on the fence," which is that point on the continuum occupied by everyone who hasn't made up his/her mind on whatever the issue is under discussion. You'll have a lot of company there, which is the whole point to the metaphor.

The extremists (those sitting farthest from the "fence") on either side make up a very small percentage of the total population under examination. The vast majority often sits on or very near the fence, in that their opinions aren't held very strongly.

Activists (another small segment of the population) are those people within this metaphorical field saying, "come over here, to this side of the fence." And you broke the metaphor by implying that people cross the fence voluntarily.

Quite the opposite. People don't often enjoy changing their minds. And when it comes to issues with religious implications, people often will only cross the fence kicking and screaming, leaving deep furrows in the grass from their bootheels.

But back to your OP... With the evolution "debate" in mind, the battle between the activists on both sides is for more people to vote the way the activists want. The battle is for your vote. How you vote, on referenda and/or legislators, affects how well (or poorly) science will be taught in the classroom, among other issues.

Even refusing to vote won't remove you from the battleground, since the activists will try all the more to convince you to vote, even if you won't vote the way any particular activist might want you to vote. Shouting "I'm a fence-sitter and proud of it" will make you a target for the activists. So if all you want to do is be left alone, you're going about it the wrong way.

My article, "Fence Sitting," actually mentioned three different ideological "battlegrounds." One was the evolution debate, and it was simply a handy example (given that the Shermer comment was in that context). The second - and far more important - was the ideology of skepticism itself, and I was simply pointing out that those who (for example) extremists for evolutionary science aren't very skeptical.

The third "battleground" was only implied. Do I want there to be more real activists promoting skepticism? Sure! But the article was written by an activists for other activists. It wasn't an attempt to get you or anyone else to become activists.

In other words, the choices aren't dogamatism on one side of the fence and skeptical activism on the other. I and (I think) the rest of the staff here would like there to be more proponents of critical thought, but we would love there to just be more critical thinkers, whether they proclaimed themselves as such or not.

To continue your OP's metaphor, you don't have to be a "soldier," but it's important to understand that the soldiers who exist are fighting to capture the hearts and minds of the vast civilian populace, anyway. You are a target whether you're a soldier or not.

By the way, did you know that Answers in Genesis began in Australia, and only later moved its main operations to the USA?

- Dave W. (Private Msg, EMail)
Evidently, I rock!
Why not question something for a change?
Visit Dave's Psoriasis Info, too.
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Dry_vby
Skeptic Friend

Australia
249 Posts

Posted - 08/05/2005 :  21:43:18   [Permalink]  Show Profile Send Dry_vby a Private Message
Thank you very much for your well considered response.

There is much there for me to absorb, however as an immediate response to your question, I was not aware of the Genesis of the site you posted, and I fail to see the significance of the reference.

Further more, I would like to say that I do not proclaim my fence sitting as a matter of pride.

"I'll go along with the charade
Until I can think my way out.
I know it was all a big joke
Whatever it was about."

Bob Dylan
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Dave W.
Info Junkie

USA
25977 Posts

Posted - 08/06/2005 :  18:36:21   [Permalink]  Show Profile  Visit Dave W.'s Homepage Send Dave W. a Private Message
quote:
Originally posted by Dry_vby

Thank you very much for your well considered response.
Thanks for posting your concerns in the first place.
quote:
There is much there for me to absorb, however as an immediate response to your question, I was not aware of the Genesis of the site you posted, and I fail to see the significance of the reference.
The relevance is that Answers in Genesis is a fundamentalist Christian, anti-evolution group of activists for "creation science." You seemed to be saying that there wasn't much of that conflict down under, but this group started in Oz.
quote:
Further more, I would like to say that I do not proclaim my fence sitting as a matter of pride.
It was just a turn of phrase. Many peopled who are an "avowed" something-or-other and "like" doing that something-or-other are, indeed, proud of being a something-or-other. You've certainly proclaimed yourself to be a fence-sitter, but if you're not proud of it, nevermind your vow towards and enjoyment of it, that just means I guessed wrong about one small aspect of your particular brand of fence-sitting. I apologize.

- Dave W. (Private Msg, EMail)
Evidently, I rock!
Why not question something for a change?
Visit Dave's Psoriasis Info, too.
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Dry_vby
Skeptic Friend

Australia
249 Posts

Posted - 08/06/2005 :  21:50:04   [Permalink]  Show Profile Send Dry_vby a Private Message
No need for apologies, I assure you.

I can understand where the implication lies.

As you intimated, the "evolution" debate is a non-issue 'round these parts.

It doesn't appear on the radar of any discussion secular or otherwise.

This leads me to ask the very question that seems to upset you the most "Why should I care?"


I don't beleive it's a matter of complacency, I just think that if it doesn't help me in my day to day coping with lifes compexities, then why should I expend any energy on it?

People will beleive what ever is easiest to beleive given their circumstances.

On the question of fence sitting in general, the very parameter that scientists work by is that nothing is totally provable or disprovable.

There are only probabilities.

Now, the probability might well be incredibly low for or against any given thing but it exists none the less.

The thing that beleivers have that a scientist or skeptic may never have is certainty.

"I'll go along with the charade
Until I can think my way out.
I know it was all a big joke
Whatever it was about."

Bob Dylan
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Dave W.
Info Junkie

USA
25977 Posts

Posted - 08/06/2005 :  22:25:01   [Permalink]  Show Profile  Visit Dave W.'s Homepage Send Dave W. a Private Message
quote:
Originally posted by Dry_vby

As you intimated, the "evolution" debate is a non-issue 'round these parts.

It doesn't appear on the radar of any discussion secular or otherwise.

This leads me to ask the very question that seems to upset you the most "Why should I care?"
Regarding that one issue - the creationism/evolution debate - perhaps you shouldn't give a flying fig. But that's not the point of my article, and it certainly didn't upset me. Your posts in this thread indicate that you were upset that people such as myself might have the nerve to ask you to profess your opinion on such matters. My first post here was an attempt to tell you that I - in particular - don't give a rat's patootie whether you profess your opinion on anything. I only care that you hold whatever opinions you do for the right reasons.

On the other hand, the religious fundamentalists are proving themselves adept at playing low-level political games. As the saying goes, "forewarned is forearmed." And given that the creationists have been active in Australia suggests that they may come back, once they get a good idea on how to game your governmental system. And so, just in case, if you've got some spare time you may want to figure out where you stand on that issue. Perhaps.
quote:
On the question of fence sitting in general, the very parameter that scientists work by is that nothing is totally provable or disprovable.

There are only probabilities.

Now, the probability might well be incredibly low for or against any given thing but it exists none the less.

The thing that beleivers have that a scientist or skeptic may never have is certainty.
Correct, but relevant only to the extremists on either side of a question. "Fence sitters" are that category of people who either have no opinion on a question or are completely (50-50) undecided about it.

That a skeptic cannot be 100% certain about something does not mean a skeptic is not allowed to make a tentative conclusion regarding the issue. If that weren't the case, I'd never be able to get out of bed in the morning, as my teensy-weensy uncertainty about whether it is a workday or not would leave me unable to conclude that I should get dressed and shaved.

Heck, I'd leave my house (perhaps), and then stare at a blue car near my home and think, "I'm not sure this is my car. Trying the key in the lock won't prove anything, so why bother?"

No, skepticism (with a small s) is not a demand that all issues remain in "truth limbo" for each of us on a personal level. It only demands that we be able to change our minds if new evidence suggests that our previous tentative conclusions were incorrect. We cannot know that what we think is true is really true, but we can have a very strong suggestion that it is.

That understanding is when we get off "the fence." I can check the current day-of-week in several ways at my house, and if they all agree that it's Monday, then I'd be a fool to think it might not really be Monday and continue to fence-sit regarding the question of whether it's Monday or not.

Yes, it is possible that every method I have of determining the day of the week is wrong, or that I am incapable of correctly interpreting those measures, but if I'm wrong and it's still the weekend, all that happens is I'll be a little embarrassed. If I'm right, but demand certainty before I act, I'll lose my job.

Skepticism isn't an absolute antithesis to certainty.

- Dave W. (Private Msg, EMail)
Evidently, I rock!
Why not question something for a change?
Visit Dave's Psoriasis Info, too.
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